CORVALLIS - While overall sales of agricultural commodities held steady in 1999, some individual commodities experienced a bumpier road, according to Larry Burt, Oregon State University Extension economist.

Burt gave the following highlights for individual commodity categories:

  • Grains:

    Sales dropped 36 percent to $112 million. Wheat acreage declined 15 percent to 744,000 acres (shared by most regions of the state) and yields fell 35 percent statewide to 42 bushels per acre due to moisture shortages in some counties. The average Oregon price was actually up 13 percent from the previous year to $2.95 per bushel, but still considerably below levels experienced in the early 1990s.


  • Hay and forage:

    Sales totaled $169 million, a drop of 1.7 percent from 1998. Reduced acreage and yields for alfalfa hay more than offset slightly higher prices. Reduced yields and a 15 percent drop in prices for other hay varieties also contributed to the decline in value of sales.


  • Grass seed:

    Sales rose 8 percent to $369 million. Increased acreage and yields more than offset lower prices for many varieties.


  • Field crops:

    Sales dropped 6 percent to $223 million. Gross sales were higher for many crops like potatoes, sugarbeets for sugar, and vegetable and flower seeds. However, that was more than offset by a $14 million decline in the value of peppermint oil sales. Both acreage and yield of peppermint grown for oil declined and were accompanied by slightly lower prices.


  • Tree fruits and nuts:

    Sales were up more than 5 percent to $206 million. Compared to the previous year, prices for many tree fruit crops, especially sweet cherries, were improved. That helped offset lower prices for many pear varieties. A slightly higher harvested acreage and greatly increased yield of hazelnuts overcame a slight price decline to boost the value of sales 55 percent from the previous year to over $32 million.


  • Small fruits and berries:

    What a difference a year makes. Sales jumped 26 percent to $102 million. Some of Oregon's major berry crops had higher production, which was sold at higher prices. This was possible since prices in many cases are established under regional and national market conditions. In 1999, Oregon growers benefited from perceived shortages in other regions.


  • Vegetable and truck crops:

    Sales dropped 29 percent to $210 million. Several factors were at work, including a drop of almost two-thirds in the price of dry storage onions due to excess supplies in a number of regional markets. The value of dry storage onion sales declined by about $65 million. Another factor was greatly decreased production of most major processed vegetable crops due in great part to the bankruptcy of Agripac, a large grower-owned cooperative that processed and marketed vegetables in many western and northeast Oregon counties.


  • Specialty products (including nursery and greenhouse, farm forestry and Christmas trees):

    Sales were up 5.5 percent to $918 million. There were strong markets for nursery, greenhouse and Christmas trees. Farm forestry production declined despite modestly higher prices for logs.


  • Cattle and calves, hogs, sheep:

    Sales of $418 million, an increase of 14 percent, marked a possible turnaround for part of Oregon's livestock industry. But that doesn't mean strong sales in the near future. Hog and sheep prices were not robust in 1999.


  • Dairy products:

    Sales were up less than 2 percent to $250 million. Larger herd size was offset by a slight decline in the statewide price of milk.


  • Poultry and eggs:

    A strong performance in 1999. Sales rose more than 25 percent to $94 million. Increased numbers of layer hens combined with slightly higher yields (dozen eggs per head) and a 12 percent increase in price per dozen compared with the previous year all contributed to the value of sales increase in the poultry and egg category.


  • Other animal products (horses, mink, llamas, buffalo, emus, and rabbits):

    Sales dropped 9 percent to $68 million. Horse sales were reduced and both production and prices for mink were lower. Market forces have reduced the value of many exotic animals such as llamas, buffalo and emus. Rabbits were the bright spot with sales of $1.8 million, up 5 percent due to both slightly higher production and prices.

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Larry Burt, 541-737-1436